Over the past month, I have been teaching through II Thessalonians with one of my many Bible study groups. It is so neat to study the Scriptures with others and discover the Truth of the Word of God for ourselves. II Thessalonians teaches us how to plan our time knowing the the Lord will one day return. Here are a few of the things that we have been learning as we have walked through II Thessalonians together.
- The importance of communication
- Genuine faith endures persecution
- Concerning the Day of the Lord
- The Church and the Day of the Lord
As you can see, this is the 5th lesson in the series of 6. I am excited to learn and teach about prayer. Last year, in the Children’s Department of our church, we focused on the subject of Prayer based on the Lord’s Model Prayer, “Our Father”. When prayer is understood and practiced, amazing things happen in the lives of genuine followers of Jesus Christ. If you missed any of those lessons, you can read them by clicking on the titles below.
- Effective Prayer Lesson 1
- Effective Prayer Lesson 2 part 1
- Effective Prayer Lesson 2 part 2
- Effective Prayer: Allegiance, Submission, and Gratitude
- Effective Prayer: Petition and Intercession
- Effective Prayer: Forgiveness
In order to be able to pray for your disciples as the title of the article reads, first, you must have disciples. We are going to examine how the Apostle Paul prays for his disciples. Paul understood the calling of all Christ followers to reproduce spiritually by making more disciples. He oriented his daily life around the process of making disciples. Because of this, he had disciples to pray for constantly. Let’s take a look at his examples of prayers for his disciples.
I. Pray with a grateful attitude
As we examine Paul’s prayers in I and II Thessalonians, we see that Paul had genuine relationships with his disciples. His relationships were much deeper than Sunday to Sunday asking various people, “hey, how are you?” Paul knew these people intimately because he spent time with them, getting to know their daily lives. They also knew his daily life. As a result, Paul was grateful to God for the friendship that he had with these people, his brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul’s prayers for them reflect his heart of gratitude.
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;
3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,
4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; (I Thessalonians 1)
Paul encourages the Thessalonians by praying for specific things in their lives that give him reason to be grateful. Paul is grateful for the Thessalonians’ faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is grateful that they have experienced and are experiencing salvation. Paul is also grateful for their service to the Lord. The salvation that they experienced motivated them to serve. They are following Paul’s example, an example modeled to him by the Lord Jesus Christ.
13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. (I Thessalonians 2)
Paul is also grateful for the fact that the Thessalonians received the Word of God and by believing the Word of God, they have had their lives radically transformed. The Thessalonians are growing in their faith because of the Word of God and as a result, they are not being influenced by false teachings of men. When Paul writes to them a second time, he once again encourages them by letting them know that he is grateful to God for them.
3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; (II Thessalonians 1)
The fact that their faith has grown is being manifested in the way that they love each other. Jesus tells His followers that the world will know us by our love for one another. The Thessalonians are living proof of what Jesus teaches. Within the prayer, we see some deep truths about our Christian lives. We come to faith by believing the Word of God. We grow in faith by growing in the Word of God. We are motivated to serve one another and it is an open manifestation of our love for each other, Christ’s love flowing through us. Our love cannot grow if our faith does not grow and our faith cannot grow if we are not deepening our knowledge of the Word of God. There is a clear and simple cause and effect here. Many people want their love to grow but they do not see growth in their faith because they are not deepening their knowledge of the Word of God. This Holy Word is the power source that keeps us connected to the vine, Jesus Christ, so that His love can flow in us and through us.
Paul is also grateful to God for the Thessalonians because they received the baton of discipleship and faith and then, passed it on to others.
8 For the Word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. (I Thessalonians 1)
The Word of the Lord changed the lives of the Thessalonians. They wanted to pass that same life changing Word on to others and they did. Paul thanks God for the fact that they understood the calling of all followers of Jesus Christ. Paul even asks the Thessalonians to pray for him. This is another form of encouragement for them.
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; (II Thessalonians 3)
Paul wants the Word to continue spreading rapidly through him and the rest of his team just like it did to the Thessalonians and from the Thessalonians. They now have the privilege of praying for the one who is praying for them. This is what real, Biblical relationships look like. Do you have disciples of whom you are thankful to God? Do you encourage those disciples by praying for them and letting them know that you pray for them very specifically? This is the high calling that all followers of Jesus Christ have been given. Do you show gratitude to your disciples for their work in the ministry? This is an important aspect of disciple making, yet, in many cases, it is often neglected. We have to learn to be grateful and teach others to be grateful. Gratitude does not come naturally to us. We want others to show us gratitude but we are hard pressed to show it ourselves.
II. Pray according to specific needs
Many times, when we pray for others, we like to keep the prayers as broad and as general as possible. “Lord, bless this person. Lord, help this person. etc.” I feel that this is the case because we do not have intimate relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not have disciples to pray for specifically. The Apostle Paul does not have this problem because he knows his disciples well.
11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power,
12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (II Thessalonians 1)
All of us want to be counted worthy of our calling. Paul did not want all the work that he poured in the lives of the Thessalonians to be in vain. He prayed for them that they would manifest their understanding of the holy calling that the Lord offers to us. They had grown in their faith but, they still needed to grow, as we all do. Paul prayed for their spiritual growth. He let them know that he was praying for them specifically. The was an encouragement and a challenge for them to continue on in the walk of faith. They had started off strong and were going well but they needed to be encouraged to continue well until the end. We all need this. We want to know that someone is praying for our spiritual growth. We are encouraged when we hear of someone praying for our spiritual growth. This motivates us to press on and continue, especially when times get tough. When we continue to press on and grow in our faith, we serve and love each other, as well as the lost and dying world around us. As a result of doing this, the character of Jesus Christ shines through us and He is glorified in and through us. This is an amazing calling. We get to be vessels used by God.
As a result of the Thessalonians proclaiming the Word of God and making disciples, they were heavily persecuted. Paul knew about this because he was heavily persecuted when he planted the church in Thessalonica. Paul was not with the Thessalonians but he was aware of what was happening and this motivated him to pray for them during the heavy persecution that they were facing.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace,
17 comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. (II Thessalonians 2)
The Thessalonians needed comfort. No one wants to suffer alone. We all want to know that others are aware of our suffering and that they are praying for us. Do you have disciples who are making disciples and as a result, suffering persecution? Do you pray for comfort for them? Do you let them know that you pray for them, specifically that God would comfort them in the midst of suffering for the Gospel?
III. Practical truths about prayer
I just want to give some practical advice about prayer based on what we covered in the previous two sections of this article. The first thing that we learn is that prayer needs to be a priority. We need to set aside time every single day to pray for others, specifically for our disciples. We should be motivated by gratitude, first to God for the holy calling and the chance to make disciples, and then grateful for our disciples who take the baton and pass it on to others as they seek to make disciples. I need to be specific in my prayers for others and, in order to be able to do that, I must have a personal, intimate relationship with them. It is hard to pray in a specific manner for people you do not know very well. I also need to pray for spiritual growth in the lives of my disciples. I need to know the areas where they need to grow and pray specifically for that growth. I need to pray that the disciples that I have made will be equipped to stand firmly on the Word of God and not be led astray by the false teachings of others. This is such a danger, especially in our modern world of instant access to every kind of teaching one can imagine. If I will discipline myself to pray like this, prayer will become a lifestyle for me instead of something that I do when I have time. I also need to pray that my disciples will make more disciples by spreading the Word of God to all the people within their sphere of influence. I need to pray for my disciples, that they will face persecution God’s way, endure it, and allow God to use it to spread the Gospel even more.
My dear friend, is prayer a vital part of your daily life? Do you spend time praying for your disciples very specifically? Do you even have disciples to pray for on a daily basis? Are you building genuine relationships with people so that you can pray for them specifically, on a daily basis? May the Lord help us follow the model of the Apostle Paul, who was following the model of the Lord Jesus Christ!